Hilaria Cruz (University of Louisville): “Tonal verb inflection classes in two Eastern Chatino languages”

Please join us this Friday, Dec. 2nd from 15:30-17:00 in Rosenwald 301 for the very last LVC of the quarter! Prof. Hilaria Cruz from the University of Louisville will be presenting on tone in Chatino. Note that she will be speaking in-person, but that we will also have a Zoom link for those who can’t make it. If you are unable to make the in-person presentation but would like the Zoom link, please email one of the LVC student coordinators.

Song-verbs: Tonal verb inflection classes in two Eastern Chatino languages.

The complex tonal systems of San Juan Quiahije (SJQ) and San Marcos Zacatepec (ZAC), two Eastern Chatino languages of Oaxaca Mexico, convey both lexical and grammatical meaning. For instance, the 10 tonemes and 16 morphological tonal categories of SJQ and the 5 tonemes and around 15 morphological tonal categories of ZAC, play a crucial role in marking both aspect/mood and person/number inflection in verbs.

Aspect/mood inflectional classes in SJQ and ZAC, are marked by an orthogonal system of exponence (Woodbury 2019). Each one of these systems defines conjugation classes that are almost perfectly orthogonal and independent of each other: one is based on prefixation and the other is based on tonal ablaut (Woodbury 2019). In ZAC Chatino, for instance, knowledge of the prefix conjugation class, does not lead to the prediction of the tone conjugation class; and vice-versa.

The study of tonal inflection remains a puzzling issue for both descriptive and theoretical linguistics because these issues have not received much attention in morphological theories and because our current knowledge of inflectional classes is still largely based on European languages. Thus, then, the unique system of exponence in the Eastern Chatino languages of SJQ and ZAC, broadens our understanding of morphological functions of tone.

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